Memorandum by the Second Secretary of Embassy in China (Davies)10

General Political Comments

An intelligent Chinese journalist with extensive connections among high officials made the comments which follow.

As a result of the anti-Chungking sentiments and activities in Southeast China during the past summer and autumn (which we know to be a fact), the Generalissimo hoped that the forces of Yu Han-mou, Chang Fa-kuei and Tsai Ting-kai would be broken up or decimated during the course of the Japanese drive southward. The Generalissimo was aware of the ambitions of these generals and Li Chi-shen, the veteran Kwangsi political leader. He suspected that they had separatist intentions (Li approached American consular and military representatives at Kweilin last summer asking for American support of an anti-Chiang reformed government in the Southeast). Chiang doubtless also recognized that they were scheming to place themselves on the coast to receive American supplies and enlist American support (Li offered us the cooperation of the proposed reform government to assist American landings).

The poor showing of the Kwangsi and Kwangtung troops against the Japanese last autumn, my informant stated, was due to their [Page 160] realization that Chiang desired their liquidation. They therefore avoided contact with the enemy and sought to retain their forces intact. Li Tsung-jen, he said, recently intimated that this had been the Kwangsi–Kwangtung strategy.

Yu Han-mou’s strength remains relatively unimpaired. Li Chi-shen has established east of the enemy lines a small local government with Tsai as his military chief (he has asked us to air-drop him arms). Hsueh Yueh, whose forces were battered by the Japanese in Hunan, is said to be sympathetic to the Kwangsi–Kwangtung faction. But Chang Fa-kuei appears to have dropped out, at least temporarily.

The Generalissimo has been disappointed in his hopes. The Southeast is still a dissident threat. Its various elements are functioning independently of Chungking. If there is an American landing on the South China coast, these elements will seek to capitalize on the landings and openly announce their independence of the Generalissimo. If such a development occurs, the journalist declared, the Generalissimo is finished.

The Kwangsi–Kwangtung factions, my informant went on, are progressive; midway between Chiang’s Kuomintang and the Communists. They could work out a coalition with the Communists.

I asked what he thought would happen if there were no American landing on the South China coast but one on the Central China coast. That would be a different story. Chiang would have a better chance in that eventuality. The Third War Area commander, General Ku Chu-tung, is not particularly disloyal—or loyal—he is too busy trading with the Japanese. He would probably not try to beat Chiang out of American help if a landing were made on the Fukien or Chekiang coast. His interests are more commercial than military or political.

I asked whether the announcement made by the Generalissimo that constitutionalism would be instituted this year was considered to be a result of American pressure. The journalist said no. Criticism of the Government has been steadily mounting throughout the country. There have been open and sometimes violent manifestations of dissatisfaction with the Government and the Generalissimo. Chiang had to do something politically constructive. Especially since his negotiations with the Communists had broken down. So the intention to institute constitutionalism was announced.

My informant was sceptical about this so-called reform. He anticipated a managed election and stacked congress, with the CC clique11 running the show. Others may be taken in by the demonstration, [Page 161] but not the Chinese who are cynical about their own politics. No matter what attempts are made to manage the transition to constitutionalism, the very fact that the issue is officially and openly raised will inspire a clamor of demands and programs in opposition to that which the Generalissimo and his followers will try to force through.

The gesture of constitutionalism is a possible solution of the Communist problem, from the Government’s point of view. A “democratic” constitution is set up, the Communists are asked to come in under it and if they refuse, they are without the law and the Government will be legally correct in attacking them as rebels. My informant saw the foregoing as a not unlikely development. He considers the danger of civil war to be great. If it occurs, it will be the bloodiest and most convulsive episode in Chinese history. For the first time there will be an issue which will override family ties, set son against father, brother against brother. The Government will not be able to crush the Communists. Furthermore, the Communists may count on Russian aid. It may not be open intervention, but it may be expected to be effective. The Russians will not come south of the Great Wall because they do not want to lend substance to any outcry of “Red Imperialism” sweeping into China. But that does not mean that they will allow Chiang to reestablish himself in North China.

If there is no civil war and no coalition, there will be two Chinas. A unified and peaceful Communist North China. And a South China torn by semi-feudal rivalries and strife.

Did the Generalissimo fully realize how serious the position of his Government was, I asked. Yes, he was becoming more aware of it than he had been. He has come to recognize that Chungking is his political base for sometime to come and so has consented for the first time to the industrial development of Szechuan. Hence his willingness to cooperate with the WPB.12

Chiang’s greatest hope for regaining control of Central and East China is through future cooperation with the puppets, the journalist said. Hence the present contacts which Chungking maintains with Nanking and Peking. The Japanese know of these relationships and approve of them because they do not now wish Chiang destroyed—“he is essential to them.”

Dr. T. V. Soong,13 my informant stated, is now working closely with Tai Li.14 The Generalissimo has brought Dr. Soong up after degrading and humiliating him last year. The Generalissimo will allow Dr. Soong to retain his present elevation provided he does not [Page 162] seriously cross Chiang. The Generalissimo knows Dr. Soong well, he realizes that his brother-in-law is overweeningly ambitious. One more false step, the journalist said, one more attempt to impose his ideas over those of the Generalissimo and Dr. Soong will be deposed for good.

The Generalissimo, my informant said, is certainly the most astute politician in China. But he admired Li Chi-shen more. Li has integrity and more vision. The Communist leaders he spoke of in a different vein, with respect but not glowing admiration. They are the only ones who are politically the Generalissimo’s match.

John Davies
  1. Transmitted to the Chief of the Division of Chinese Affairs (Vincent) by Mr. Davies in a personal letter of January 5.
  2. Kuomintang group headed by Chen Li-fu, Minister of Organization, and his brother, Chen Kuo-fu, head of the Central Broadcasting Administration and Chief of the Personnel Section of Generalissimo Chiang’s private Secretariat.
  3. The Chinese War Production Board.
  4. Acting President of the Chinese Executive Yuan and Minister for Foreign Affairs; brother-in-law of President Chiang.
  5. General Tai Li, director of the Chinese Central Investigation and Statistics Bureau (military secret police), National Military Council.